The Brazilian Attorney General, Rodrigo Janot, has accused former presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, along with several other leaders of the Workers’ Party, or PT, of taking part in a criminal organization to divert money from the state-controlled oil company, Petrobras.
The accusations came just hours after Lula ended his “caravan of hope” around the impoverished Northeast of Brazil with a mass rally in the city of São Luis.
Lula and his supporters have long rejected the various cases against him as fabrications, aimed at stopping him from standing in presidential elections due next year.
Lula told the crowd at his closing rally that, “if they think that they just need to get rid of Lula and everything will be alright, they are making a big mistake.” He said there are already millions who think like Lula.
“They should realize that Lula now represents an idea, the idea that the people can and want to live well,” he said.
The accusations brought by Janot relate to alleged bribes between the Workers Party-led government and Petrobras, with the Attorney General saying that much of the operations were headed by Lula. The prosecutors insist that Workers Party officials pocketed US$ 475 million in bribe money
Among the other accused are former ministers Fazenda Antonio Palocci and Guido Mantega, Gleisi Hoffmann, a Workers Party President, and her husband, former communications minister Paulo Bernardo, and former Workers Party treasurers João Vaccari and Edinho Silva, who is the current mayor of Araraquara.
The accused have 15 days to formally reply to the accusations.
The case will then go to the Supreme Court judge leading the sprawling Car Wash corruption scandal, and then to a panel of Supreme Court judges. They will decide whether to accept the accusations in full or in part. Only then will the accused be formally charged. Alternatively, the judges could decide to shelve the case.
A representative of Rousseff has said that the Attorney General has offered no evidence to support the allegations, and Lula’s lawyer has said that the accusations are abusing the law to persecute the popular former President and social leader.
Caravan of Hope
Lula’s Caravan of Hope — a 20-day bus tour through Brazil’s northeast heartland to nine states and dozens of speeches, radio interviews and public events — came to an end late Tuesday.
The last leg of the journey involved a public event alongside Flavio Dino, the governor of Maranhão state and member of the Communist Party of Brazil. He welcomed Lula to the Palace of Lions, the official governor’s residence.
Lula said that he embarked on the caravan to “talk to the people,” even as he awaits an appeal of judge Sergio Moro’s decision to sentence him to nine years and six months over corruption allegations in the Operation Car Wash investigations.
The ruling will decide whether Lula, who leads all polls, will be allowed to run for president in 2018.
During the caravan, he defended the Workers Party’s 14 years in office, its advancements in hunger-reduction, housing and education to name a few, and criticized previous right-wing governments whose achievements over the past 500 years pale in comparison.
Lula was condemned by Moro for passive corruption crimes and money laundering. However, prison time was not applied as the prosecution awaits the ruling on the appeal.
His legal defense argued that “No credible evidence of guilt has been produced, and overwhelming proof of his innocence was blatantly ignored. This politically motivated judgment attacks Brazil’s rule of law, democracy and Lula’s basic human rights.”
Harshly criticizing Moro’s decision to convict Lula, Paulo Pimenta, congressperson for the Worker’s Party, emphatically stated that next year’s presidential election “will not be tolerated, nor permitted” without Lula as a candidate. 0